According to a Fact Sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in 2010. There were 38,364 suicides in 2010 in the United States–an average of 105 each day.
Having bipolar disorder, depression has a major impact on my life. Standing on the proverbial ledge has led me to the emergency room three times. Once I was held in lockdown for ten days. Despite the seriousness of depression, there are times I try to make light of this horrible disease. I also make light of bipolar disorder at times. What I am unable to make light of is suicide. It is the one thing I cannot laugh about.
In a July 31 interview with Songfacts, Gene Simmons, lead singer of the rock band Kiss, had some despicable and ignorant comments about depression and suicide. Here is the part of the interview that has caused an uproar, and rightfully so. In the interview he said,
“The world is a harsh place.” My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck all about “the world as a harsh place.” She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, “I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.” Fuck you, then kill yourself. I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says “Jump!” when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump.” Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowds.
As if that wasn’t enough, he continued,
By the way, you walk up to the same guy on a ledge who threatens to jump and put a gun to his head, ‘I’m going to blow your … head off!’ He’ll go, ‘Please don’t!’ It’s true. He’s not that insane.
This was a small part of a long interview and unlike what many believe, he was not speaking of Robin Williams’ death. The interview took place two weeks before Williams’ suicide. That doesn’t make his comments any less damaging. His words may have a powerful impact. Imagine a trouble youth who views Gene Simmmons as an icon and reads “a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, “I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.” Fuck you, then kill yourself.” This could be the catalyst for putting this kid over the edge. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. The last thing they need is encouragement.
On Friday, August 15, Gene Simmons made an apology on his Facebook page. Here is part of his statement.
I want to make this statement about my views on depression for the record and to clarify my prior remarks.
To the extent my comments reported by the media speak of depression, I was wrong and in the spur of the moment made remarks that in hindsight were made without regard for those who truly suffer the struggles of depression. I sincerely apologize to those who were offended by my comments. I recognize that depression is very serious and very sad when it happens to anyone, especially loved ones. I deeply support and am empathetic to anyone suffering from any disease, especially depression.
So far radio stations in Canada, Australia and the United States have now banned Kiss music. Of course, the loss of the residuals will have little impact on the already wealthy, Gene Simmonss, but hopefully will generate further discussion about depression and suicide. Gene Simmons is a sad pathetic man. I don’t know if his apology is sincere or not, but it doesn’t matter to me. The damage has already been done.